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Eye on Boise: Not enough mettle to change currency

BOISE – A proposal from two lawmakers and a group of North Idaho residents to go back to gold and silver currency failed to get introduced in a House committee last week – or even to draw any motion to act on it at all.

Reps. Phil Hart, R-Athol, and Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, joined with the “Idaho Sound Money Task Force” to propose the bill in the House State Affairs Committee.

Tom Dillon, of Sandpoint, chairman of the Legislative District 1 Republican Central Committee and a member of the task force, told the panel, “The evidence is overwhelming that the federal reserve system has failed in its duties to stabilize the economy. … It is an emergency situation.”

He said the “current debasement of our currency … is a disgrace to our American heritage. … A penny saved is no longer a penny earned.” With the proposed bill, he said, “Idaho will become the monetary anchor in a stormy sea of financial chaos.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, the panel’s vice-chairman, who was presiding, said the proposal was before the panel, but there was a long pause, and no one said anything. Crane ruled that the measure died for lack of a motion.

At that, Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, said hesitantly, “I’d like to make a motion,” but Crane told him it was too late – the bill already was dead.

Sticky notes make plea

There was a bumper crop of pink, yellow, blue and orange sticky notes on the House State Affairs Committee hearing room door on Friday, all urging Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, to hold a hearing on SB 1033, Sen. Edgar Malepeai’s bill to expand the Idaho Human Rights Act’s nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation.

McKenzie has declined to hold a hearing on the bill, saying conservative senators on his committee won’t pass it. Malepeai introduced the measure as a personal bill on Jan. 21. Backers of the proposal have been posting the messages to McKenzie on the committee room door periodically over the past two weeks; they’re quickly removed by security, but they are delivered to McKenzie.

Otter: Opponents misinformed

Gov. Butch Otter plans to sign controversial teacher-contract and merit pay bills, SB 1108 and SB 1110, into law, he said late last week – “Oh yes, I intend to sign them,” he told reporters – and he criticized the school-reform plan’s opponents, saying they’re misinformed.

“I’ve been disappointed that there was so much misinformation out there resulting in a lot of confusion,” Otter said in his first public comments since passage of the two bills, which are the first two of state schools Supt. Tom Luna’s three-bill “Students Come First” reform package; the third remains stalled in a Senate committee.

Asked about the big outpouring of public opposition against the bills, Otter said, “I guess I’ve been disappointed in some ways that folks haven’t done the homework that they should have done on knowing and understanding those bills.”

Teachers, parents and students have held rallies, protests and walkouts over the bills, and they’ve generated thousands of calls and e-mails to legislators. Luna, too, has characterized opponents as misinformed, which has angered some.

“I’ve tired of being labeled as misinformed or misguided by the teachers union,” Boise parent Maria Greeley said during a rally Wednesday across from the state Capitol.

During the House debate, Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, “I understand it quite well, and there are parts of it I definitely don’t like.”

A not-quite texting ban

The House Transportation Committee has sent HB 141 to the House’s amending order for changes, but sponsor Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said the proposed amendments wouldn’t change the bill’s basic concept: That drivers distracted by electronic devices can be pulled over and cited, but people texting and driving who aren’t distracted are OK.

“A person has to be distracted,” Hagedorn said. “The person’s driving behavior has to be changed by use of the electronic device.”

Hagedorn said it’s problematic to get records proving a driver has been texting, because cell phone providers only keep those records for a short time, and because if a driver passes into and out of areas with reception, the text may send at some time other than when the driver triggered it. “We have to find another way to get there,” Hagedorn said.

Last session, a texting-while-driving ban won majority support in both houses, but it was killed by a parliamentary maneuver in the session’s final hours.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached at (208) 336-2854 or

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